When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, (fame due to[a] the name of the Lord), she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt-offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.
So she said to the king, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Not even half had been told me; your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel for ever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness.’ Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again did spices come in such quantity as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
Moreover, the fleet of Hiram, which carried gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a great quantity of almug wood and precious stones. From the almug wood the king made supports for the house of the Lord, and for the king’s house, lyres also and harps for the singers; no such almug wood has come or been seen to this day.
Meanwhile, King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba every desire that she expressed, as well as what he gave her out of Solomon’s royal bounty. Then she returned to her own land, with her servants.
Seldom, it seems, has a woman, about whom we know so little, caught the imaginations of so many. If we pare back the myths that have grown up around her we have left a core of information which is, nonetheless, very significant.
She is a woman of some personal resource whether a queen in her own right or an emissary. We see her tackling the, circa, 5 month journey from her presumed home in present day Yemen to Jerusalem. Her caravan appears to have arrived unscathed suggesting an ability in leadership. We see her engaging with Solomon in an exchange which we can interpret as trade negotiations and we recognise her ability not only to assess Solomon’s wisdom but also to recognise God’s influence.
In those few sentences I find a woman whom I would be proud to emulate. However, I need to dispense with the media influences on my picture.
I doubt that any chamber orchestra will ever announce my arrival as per Handel and I challenge the images and behaviours with which Hollywood has peppered our imaginations (partly based on legends developed within all Abrahamic faiths). Think of the portrayals of the queen by Betty Blythe, Gina Lollobrigida or Halle Berry – a conversation and trade mission becoming an erotic tale of intrigue involving stereotypically beautiful men and women. The voice of the Queen of Sheba – whoever she represents – silenced.
How readily fact becomes embellished and how quickly legend gets absorbed then retold as truth.
As I am writing discussion boards, blogs, facebook groups and reviews are reverberating with the outpouring of #metoo stories and the waves of hurt and pain rippling out. Many people talking of a rekindling of their own hurt as the Ford and Kavanaugh hearings play out in the media. Let’s listen and pray.
Listening and affirming God may we be more like you. May we be part of a safe place where people can share their story and feel heard and affirmed. May we hold the space and always start from a premise of belief. May we find ways to articulate your invitation and welcome to a community built on justice, love and integrity. Amen.
The Rev’d Helen M Mee, temporary Transition Minister for Synod of Scotland and member of Morningside United Church.